Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My spouse and I are getting a divorce after ten years of marriage. We have three small children. We want to create the best custody agreement possible and work together, but I am having trouble staying objective and unemotional. What do I need to consider as we create the child custody agreement?”
What is a child custody agreement?
A child custody agreement is simply a plan which outlines where your child where live every day of the year. You and your spouse can create your own child custody agreement or you can work with a legal professional. If you do decide to create your schedule you will need to consider residential and weekly schedules, holiday schedules, vacation schedules and special events.
With all that in mind, let’s look at 5 things to consider before you develop your child custody agreement.
Things to consider when creating a custody agreement
- Do not be emotional and consider your children’s needs first.
Given the devastation of divorce, the potential trauma on the children, and the anger couples might feel, putting aside your emotions and looking at the situation objectively can be the biggest obstacle for most couples. It’s also easier said than done.
What’s important, however, is that you first consider the needs of your children. For example, does your son need your husband to support him at a specific event? Is there a particular holiday that is special to your spouse? Can you and your spouse spend holidays together for the good of the family?
- Put everything down in writing.
Next, write your schedule down and follow it. Can you be flexible? Maybe, but creating a written plan is sensible and eliminates misunderstandings about the where and when of your children’s schedule.
- Be flexible.
Children get sick and schedules can change. Although the schedule needs to be consistently followed and chronic violations of a court order can be serious, there are times to allow for a bit of flexibility. Be wise and smart enough to recognize those times.
With this in mind, however, it is always a good idea to keep records of visits so if there are disputes or you have to take your spouse to court for consistent violations you will have evidence of the offenses.
- Recognize both parents have a special parenting role.
While society tries to suggest that men are not necessary, children health statistics tell a very different story. Shared custody allows for both parents to be both physically and emotionally involved. No matter how bad of a spouse your husband might have been, he still might be a great father. It’s generally a good idea to allow regular contact with both parents. Your child needs to know that both mom and dad love him and want to spend time with him. If you have trouble with this step go back to step one and focus on eliminating your emotions and focusing on the good of your child.
Exceptions for joint custody may exist if one parent is abusive, absent, or has a drug or alcohol problem.
- The judge will have the final say about your custody agreement.
Keep in mind, if you are unable to create your own child custody agreement the court will step in and help you. Unfortunately, the family court judge does not know you, your spouse, or your child. For this reason they may be the least skilled person to make the custody decision.
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